Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Things I Used To Have Time To Do

Have you ever got rid of something because you had to because of financial or other circumstances?  I have; a foot spa.  I was bought one for Christmas about twelve years ago.  I used it for a while and I loved it.  Those warm bubbles danced playfully between my toes.  Heaven was only a jug full of warm water away.  Then....I had my third child and the foot spa soon found its way to the back of the garage and then on to the charity shop.  The memory of those bubbles was assigned to the "things I used to have time to do" box.

Fast forward twelve years - and suddenly the urge is there again.  I started to crave that feeling again.  But there was more than just wanting a foot spa - it was a much deeper appreciation of the whole experience.  I went for a Champney's Massaging Bubble Action Deluxe Foot Spa - with infra red heat.

Did I nearly lose you there?  On to my clever link to the CB400F.

In 1978, George Frederick (Fred) bought a Honda CB400F for his 19th birthday.  Fred paid the grand sum of £958 for his purchase from Tom Cowies in Newcastle, and using my historic inflation calculator [tap, tap, tap] I can tell you that that is the same as £4,773 in today's money, which is about the going rate for a restored one now.


The registration number was UNL 903T so if you have one festering away in your garage, check the number plate.  Fred added the Rickman top half fairing (painted himself to match the tank) and dropped bars.  He also added the Cibie headlight ("de regueur on a 400-4 in those days to replace the factory candle"), Girling rear shocks and Lucas electronic ignition kit.

Unlike in 2014 licence regs were very simple in the mid 1970's.  You applied for a provisional licence at 17, bought anything up to a 250cc and then rode it home.  Fred remembers passing his test as a "20 minute ride around the block with an examiner on foot pulling you in to issue the next instruction".  "L" plates were thrown in the nearest bin and the ride home was via the motorway if possible "just because you could".  The next step then was to buy any bike available that you could afford the payments for and then finally "try really hard not to kill yourself (many people failed this one)".

I asked Fred if he felt able to handle the bike at 19.  "People I knew borrowed a mate's bikes for the test then persuaded their parents to buy them the latest super bike if they were rich enough.  Most were killed or seriously injured within a month.  I never really wanted anything other than a 400-4 then; I stared at the brochure every day.  I was sure I could handle it, I was 19, I could have handled Barry Sheene's GP500 no problem!"

Fred circa 1980 at an old airfield near Morpeth where the local loonies used to show off.  "This was as brave as I got".
Taken near Coventry during the NEC bike show.  The other bike is a Suzuki GS550.  The helmet is a Barry Sheene Replica.
This race bike was on the Yamaha stand at the NEC and was Kenny Roberts' GP World Championship winning bike from 1980.
The CB400-4 was Fred's second bike.  His first was a Honda CB200, bought new in August 1976 for £498 on the road [tap, tap, tap], £3131 in today's money.  This was traded in for the CB400-4.

Fred's CB200 in 1976
Fred's next bike after his CB400-4 was a Honda CB900-F2B registration KBB 168X.  This was bought new in August 1981 (he doesn't mention the price on this one) and was kept for 10 years.  Fred sold this bike to pay for a new kitchen.  I can use a different calculator for this one - Fred was 19 in 78 so when the bike was sold in 91 he would have been 32 (other things to spend your money on I think).

Fred's CB900-F2B circa 1981
Fred's life story in bikes continues in 2000, when he purchased a Suzuki Bandit 600, which was then traded in for a Fireblade in 2003, which he still owns.

Full Circle

Fred recently purchased a fully restored CB400F from David Silver Spares.  One from the well publicised mass restoration project.  It was only bought in March this year so the relationship with this bike has only just started.  Fred has already done a bit of his own work on the bike and plans to do some of the remaining stuff himself when it take his fancy.

"[The bike] attracts a lot of misty eyed comments from men of a certain age.  I'm not a mechanic, I'm a time-served engineer, however when I started riding bikes as an apprentice you learned very quickly how to fettle them.  No diagnostic software then!".

So, what attracts "men of a certain age" back to the CB400F?

"I bought this one as it was the only bike I ever regretted selling, also I'm at that age and fortunate enough to have some disposable income to let me indulge my mid-life crisis".  There certainly are plenty of benefits of "knocking on a little bit".

Fred doesn't have any plans for the bike other than to enjoy all over again "the things I used to have time to do".

The original 400F back in 1978

The restored CB400F outside the same garage in 2014